SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 29: In Which We Let There Be Light.

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

“Of the three varieties of ultraviolet radiation,” I mumbled to myself, “only class C radiation at a wavelength of 254 nanometers has been proven conclusively to be destructive to coronaviruses including H1N1, SARS-Cov, MERS-Cov, and the Covid-19 virus officially designated SARS-Cov-2.”

“Silence,” interrupted Miss Carol T. Cat. “Talking to yourself will solve nothing. Only firm, decisive, and above all united action can successfully resolve the present global crisis.”

“What?” I replied, catching only the end of it. I was sunken deep into the old mohair living room armchair, while Miss Carol coiled on a throw pillow, artlessly thrown on the floor underneath the television set. She was trying to sleep, and I was trying to study. “No,” I said, holding out a sheaf of diagrams and print-outs. “I gotta read this stuff for work. Technical articles.”

“I was not aware that such literature was available in comic-strip format,” snapped Herself in return. “No doubt Captain Marvel or the Incredible Squirrel Girl or some other preposterous costumed entity will appear to clarify your understanding of such scientific complexities.”

“Why you gotta be like that?” I responded, with a sad shake of my head. “I can remember when you used to be such a nice cat. The Strand Kids would come over and pat you and skritch you and you’d roll on the floor and be all cute and junk.”

“There is no time for ‘cute and junk’ in the teeth of the present crisis,” she declared, sitting up to fix me in a steely-eyed glare. “These are serious times, to be taken seriously. Given your affinity for the trivial and the inconsequential, it is necessary that I take matters twice as seriously as I might otherwise. It is a difficult burden, even for one such as myself.”

“If you weren’t such a butt,” I snorted, “maybe you could give me a hand with this. We’re going to be installing these special UV radiators in the ventilation system down to the Strand this week.” I held out a diagram for Miss Carol’s examination. “See? We mount these inside the air ducts and the rays kill viruses and bacteria and other things people don’t want to breathe.”

Miss Carol looked up, and I saw what appeared to be a flicker of concern playing momentarily across her stern features. “You must ensure that you are adequately shielded from these rays,” she warned. “Note the effect the ultraviolet radiation from merely the sun had upon your unprotected skin during your activities over the recent summer at your ‘Drive In Theatre.’  It has taken on the tone and the texture of an old catcher’s mitt, aging you decades in just the space of a few months. You ignored my sage advice to apply sufficient protectant, and now you reap the consequences of your folly. All that is required to complete the image is Carlton Fisk’s signature imprinted across your leathery cheek.”

“The sun is one thing, these devices are something else entirely. It’s a controlled use of UV light in a carefully defined and confined space. We’re not going to be shining these things down on people as they come in the door or anything like that. They’re going to be deep inside the air-handling machinery, completely out of sight and out of mind for anybody coming into the theatre. But they’re going to be in there, working  twenty-four-seven to keep our air that much fresher and that much safer for everybody, patrons and staff alike. It’s not going to be inexpensive to do this, but it’s the right thing to do – especially now. So there.”

Miss Carol looked over the diagrams thoughtfully. “Everything seems to be in order,” she finally concluded, pushing the pages back toward me with a graceful stroke of her paw. “You have my approval to proceed with the installation.”

“Thank you, I guess,” I replied, rolling my eyes just enough so she didn’t see it.

“Now,” she said, “I call your attention to the condition of my personal  facilities. They also require careful attention to sanitation at this time. If you complete this assignment to my complete satisfaction, I shall permit you to ‘skritch’ me for three minutes, and shall endeavor during that time to ‘be all cute and junk,’ But no longer than that. These are, as I have noted, serious times.”

“Ridiculous fat barrel cat,” I mumbled.  But I did as I was told. These are, indeed, serious times, and one can only take so much.

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